Can CBD Help With AFib?
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib), is a condition where the heart experiences irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia). Cannabidiol (CBD) is believed to have properties that may benefit the cardiovascular system(1).
- A study revealed that CBD decreased irregular heart palpitations in lab rats(2).
- In another study, human participants had lower blood pressure after taking a single dose of CBD. They also showed reduced blood pressure in response to stress(3).
- There is a lack of direct evidence to prove that CBD may help with atrial fibrillation. Most of the studies on CBD were performed on animal models.
- Interested users are advised to consult a doctor before using any CBD product. Never attempt to diagnose or treat yourself for AFib or other health concerns.
- AFib patients are managed with blood thinners. CBD is known to inhibit the enzymes that process common blood thinners like Warfarin and thus can raise the levels of such medications which may cause more bleeding than normal. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking CBD as it may interact with your prescriptions.
- Always consult a qualified health professional or emergency medical services for any heart or bleeding concerns right away. CBD will not stop or prevent any emergencies.
Why People Are Turning to CBD for AFib
Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib, is a specific condition where the heart experiences irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) due to excess atrial contraction.
It is estimated that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib(4).
There is growing evidence surrounding the use of cannabidiol (CBD) and its potential therapeutic effects in the cardiovascular system(5).
CBD is one of many substances found in cannabis plants. It is not the same as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound also present in cannabis (marijuana).
Although CBD and THC are the two major components used in medical marijuana, it is THC that makes users high.
In 2010, a study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology revealed that CBD reduced the total number of irregular, ventricular heartbeats (heart arrhythmia) in lab rats after they suffered a heart attack(6). This kind of arrhythmia, coming from the ventricles instead of the atria, is different from AFIB, but it could be worth further investigation.
Researchers in a 2017 study learned that a single dose of CBD decreased blood pressure in male subjects(7). They also observed that the compound reduced blood pressure response to stress in the participants, particularly when subjected to cold stress.
High blood pressure is said to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in middle-aged men and women(8).
Male rats exposed to restraint stress, a procedure intended to induce tension in animals, showed increased blood pressure and heart rate. The authors of the study found that these effects were reduced by cannabidiol(9).
Meanwhile, experts in another study reported that CBD attenuated several processes associated with diabetes. They believed that, based on the results, CBD has great therapeutic potential in treating diabetes and other heart-related medical conditions(10).
However, there are no direct studies that can prove CBD as an effective treatment for atrial fibrillation. Many trials on CBD used animal models, with only a few studies carried out on human subjects but none directly address AFib.
How CBD Oil Could Work to Help with AFib
CBD is said to engage with a part of the human body known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is a system that regulates the body by maintaining balance through its receptors.
Cannabidiol has been found to interact with cannabinoid receptors(11), while there is growing evidence that it also binds with signaling pathways outside of the ECS(12).
A study on lab rats revealed that CBD’s interaction with ECS receptors allowed it to exert its cardioprotective effects in the subjects(13).
In another study, researchers learned that cannabidiol binds and activates the PPARgamma receptor(14). This receptor has been linked to various diseases of the cardiovascular system(15).
The authors believed that the activation of the PPARgamma receptor is what caused CBD to exert its vascular actions in rats(16).
It is beneficial for AFib patients to have good blood pressure control. Safe, established medications already exist for AFib and blood pressure but it is worth the continued research as there are not yet clear benefits for CBD and AFib.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for AFib
- There is evidence that CBD may help with underlying blood pressure control which could help with AFib. Based on the studies mentioned above, researchers learned that CBD has properties that may benefit the cardiovascular system and another type of irregular heartbeat but not AFib specifically.
- A study mentioned earlier on male subjects has shown that CBD reduced blood pressure, a condition that can lead to atrial fibrillation.
- Consuming cannabidiol does not cause mind-altering effects on the user. CBD is not the same as THC, since tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive.
- Most states allow people to buy and consume CBD. In places where cannabidiol is legally sold, it is possible to obtain CBD products without the need to acquire a doctor’s prescription.
- Government agencies, like the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acknowledge CBD’s potential therapeutic applications(17).
- The World Health Organization published a case report that reviewed several clinical trials on CBD use. They learned that CBD is generally well-tolerated, even when taken in high doses(18).
- The majority of studies on CBD were carried out on animal subjects. Clinical trials on human participants are lacking, making it difficult to determine its efficacy in treating various health issues. CBD’s effects, if any, on AFib have not yet been studied.
- Epidiolex is the only cannabidiol product that has been approved by the FDA(19). At this time, CBD has no other marketing applications approved by the agency.
- Using CBD, together with other medications, can result in interactions with common AFib medications like blood thinners(20) and thus may increase the risk of bleeding. Always tell your doctor before taking CBD and other medications.
- Many CBD products are mislabeled, especially those sold online(21). People choosing to buy CBD via these channels may consume more or less of the compound than expected.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for AFib
Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant agents (vitamins C and E), and barberry are considered as alternative treatments that may benefit people with AFib(22).
Dietary supplementation of an omega-3 fatty acid was shown to lower the risk of fatal cardiovascular events in patients who had a heart attack(23).
Antioxidant agents, such as vitamins C and E, have been observed to protect against the development and progression of atrial fibrillation(24).
Meanwhile, the compound extracted from barberries is said to have properties that can help with irregular heart palpitations(25).
Compared to these alternative medications, cannabidiol is also believed to have cardioprotective qualities that may benefit patients with AFib.
A study has shown that CBD’s cardioprotective abilities are due to its interaction with various receptors in the body(26).
How to Choose the Right CBD for AFib
The three forms of CBD products available today are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD oil is the most well-known of the three. This CBD variant contains all of the natural compounds of Cannabis sativa plants, such as THC, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Quality full-spectrum CBD products are high in cannabidiol, with only trace amounts of the other chemical compounds present.
The next type of CBD is called broad-spectrum, a variant quite similar to full-spectrum. The primary difference between the two is that broad-spectrum does not have THC.
Since tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive compound, some individuals choose not to consume it. They prefer to purchase broad-spectrum CBD products to benefit from CBD and the other cannabis compounds.
The last type of CBD product is called isolate. CBD isolates are usually sold in crystalline or powdered form.
Due to its purity, a CBD isolate product does not have a distinct smell or taste.
Perhaps the most potent form of CBD oil is the full-spectrum variety. Full-spectrum CBD is known for the synergism called the “entourage effect.”
This effect is a proposed mechanism of action in which cannabis compounds are said to be more effective when taken together(27).
Whichever type of CBD one plans to buy, users must always choose the highest quality product available.
Here are several tips that can help users select the best CBD oil products for AFib:
- Obtain a laboratory report or a certificate of analysis (COA). This document is the content analysis report of a CBD product showing the exact specifications described on its label.
- CBD obtained from hemp plants are the best. Purchase from brands that use industrial hemp for their CBD products.
- Be sure to read up on shop and product reviews before purchasing from an online CBD shop. If buying from a physical dispensary, make sure that the establishment has the proper authorization to sell CBD.
- Know the legalities concerning the purchase and use of CBD in the various states, especially where one plans to consume it.
- Talk to a health care expert, especially someone with past CBD experience, before purchasing any CBD product.
CBD Dosage for AFib
At this time, there are no approved FDA guidelines for CBD dosing. This predicament makes it difficult for people to know the right dose that could benefit patients with AFib.
However, looking at a past clinical trial and the dosage that was used may help to identify a suitable amount of CBD to take.
In one study, nine healthy male participants took 600 mg of cannabidiol(28). The subjects reportedly did not experience any adverse events during the trial and even a week after taking CBD.
How to Take CBD Oil for AFib
Two of the fastest ways to administer CBD to those with AFib are through sublingual tincture and vaping.
Sublingual administration has shown to be a quick method of applying substances in the body(29).
Meanwhile, inhaling CBD allows the compound to be delivered immediately and effectively due to high bioavailability(30). Bioavailability is the amount in which a substance enters the body successfully for it to take effect.
However, not everyone is comfortable with vaping. Consuming CBD by way of edibles or capsules is a straightforward way for non-users to take CBD oil. The most common edibles sold by CBD brands are gummies.
Some brands sell CBD in the form of topicals. These products can be used for massage therapies, which may help people relax and feel at ease.
To measure their cannabidiol dosage accurately, users may choose to purchase CBD tinctures. These products allow individuals to correctly apply the right amount of CBD they need to take.
Massaging with CBD topicals may help those with AFib deal with minor discomforts. To avoid complications, visit a doctor for medical advice before using cannabidiol.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is considered to be the most prevalent type of erratic heartbeat that a person can experience. A few of the risk factors of AFib include age, existing heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Although often linked with irregular electrical impulses, the exact cause for AFib is relatively unknown.
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation are:
- Rapid and abnormal heartbeat
- A feeling of fluttering in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
The Different Types of Atrial Fibrillation
There are at least five types of AFib that are characterized based on their duration and underlying reasons(31).
- Paroxysmal fibrillation is when a person’s heart returns to normal with or without intervention within a week after its start. Individuals with this type of AFib may experience episodes a few times each year or daily.
- Persistent AFib can be defined as an abnormal rhythm of the heart that lasts more than a week. This variant of atrial fibrillation does not return to normal without treatment.
- Long-standing AFib is a type of atrial fibrillation wherein the heart is continuously in an erratic rhythm, lasting more than twelve months.
- Permanent AFib happens when the disorder lasts indefinitely, with the patient and doctor deciding not to continue its treatment.
- Nonvalvular AFib is the form of AFib that is not caused by an issue with the heart valve.
What is Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation is an essential program for individuals recovering from heart muscle failure or surgery(32). This program is supervised to include physical activity, education about healthy lifestyle choices, and counseling to improve mental health.
Anyone with cardiovascular disease is an ideal candidate for cardiac rehab.
The program could offer many benefits to a person’s health. These include:
- Strengthening the heart and body after a heart attack
- Relieving the symptoms of heart problems, such as chest pain
- Reducing stress
- Developing healthier habits
- Improving mood
- Increasing energy and strength
- Staying motivated to take prescribed medications that help lower the risk of future heart problems
- Preventing future cardiovascular disorders
It is possible to sign up for cardiac rehabilitation in a hospital or health center. Some programs allow rehab to be performed in the patient’s home.
A team of experts can guide individuals through cardiac rehabilitation. Professionals, such as nutrition specialists, physical therapists, and counselors, may take part in the program.
Cannabidiol may help with atrial fibrillation as it is believed to exert therapeutic effects (antiarrhythmic) that can benefit general heart health.
Studies have shown that CBD reduced blood flow pressure and the total number of irregular, venticular heartbeats (arrhythmia) in study subjects who had heart attacks. Abnormal heart rhythm and high blood pressure are conditions linked and related to AFib. However, ventricular arrhythmia is a different type of rhythm from AFib and requires emergency medical care. No discernable benefits can be said about CBD and AFib at this point.
CBD is said to engage with receptors of the endocannabinoid system, which researchers believe is the reason for its cardioprotective effects. The compound’s interaction with receptors outside of the ECS has also been observed.
Despite the positive outlook, there is a lack of clinical trials regarding CBD and its effectiveness in treating atrial fibrillation or blood pressure. Most of the studies on cannabidiol were performed on animals.
Before deciding to purchase and use any CBD product, one should consult a doctor to avoid complications. CBD is known to interact with common blood thinners like Warfarin, raising their levels and also possibly increasing the risk of bleeding. Your doctor may choose to adjust your prescription dose, but never adjust your own.
- Stanley CP, Hind WH, O’Sullivan SE. Is the cardiovascular system a therapeutic target for cannabidiol?. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(2):313-322. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04351.x
- Walsh SK, Hepburn CY, Kane KA, Wainwright CL. Acute administration of cannabidiol in vivo suppresses ischaemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias and reduces infarct size when given at reperfusion. Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(5):1234-1242. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00755.x
- Jadoon KA, Tan GD, O’Sullivan SE. A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study. JCI Insight. 2017;2(12):e93760. Published 2017 Jun 15. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.93760
- American Heart Association. What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation–afib-or-af
- Stanley CP, Hind WH, O’Sullivan SE. op. cit.
- Walsh SK, Hepburn CY, Kane KA, Wainwright CL. op. cit.
- Jadoon KA, Tan GD, O’Sullivan SE. op. cit.
- American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure, AFib and Your Risk of Stroke. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/why-atrial-fibrillation-af-or-afib-matters/high-blood-pressure–afib-and-your-risk-of-stroke
- Resstel LB, Tavares RF, Lisboa SF, Joca SR, Corrêa FM, Guimarães FS. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. Br J Pharmacol. 2009;156(1):181-188. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2008.00046.x
- Rajesh M, Mukhopadhyay P, Bátkai S, et al. Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010;56(25):2115-2125. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.07.033
- Chye Y, Christensen E, Solowij N and Yücel M (2019). The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol‘s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder. Front. Psychiatry 10:63. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00063
- Hill AJ, Williams CM, Whalley BJ, Stephens GJ. Phytocannabinoids as novel therapeutic agents in CNS disorders. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;133(1):79-97. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.09.002
- Walsh SK, Hepburn CY, Kane KA, Wainwright CL. op. cit.
- O’Sullivan SE, Sun Y, Bennett AJ, Randall MD, Kendall DA. Time-dependent vascular actions of cannabidiol in the rat aorta. Eur J Pharmacol. 2009;612(1-3):61-68. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.03.010
- Duan SZ, Ivashchenko CY, Usher MG, Mortensen RM. PPAR-gamma in the Cardiovascular System. PPAR Res. 2008;2008:745804. doi:10.1155/2008/745804
- O’Sullivan SE, Sun Y, Bennett AJ, Randall MD, Kendall DA. op. cit.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol–cbd
- World Health Organization (June 2018). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, March 11). op. cit.
- Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
- Kanmanthareddy A, Reddy M, Ponnaganti G, et al. Alternative medicine in atrial fibrillation treatment-Yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback and more. J Thorac Dis. 2015;7(2):185-192. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2015.01.13
- Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico [published correction appears in Lancet 2001 Feb 24;357(9256):642] [published correction appears in Lancet. 2007 Jan 13;369(9556):106]. Lancet. 1999;354(9177):447-455.
- Liu T, Korantzopoulos P, Li G. Antioxidant therapies for the management of atrial fibrillation. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2012;2(4):298-307. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2012.10.07
- Kanmanthareddy A, Reddy M, Ponnaganti G, et al. op. cit.
- Walsh SK, Hepburn CY, Kane KA, Wainwright CL. op. cit.
- Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- Jadoon KA, Tan GD, O’Sullivan SE. op. Cit.
- Hua S. Advances in Nanoparticulate Drug Delivery Approaches for Sublingual and Buccal Administration. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:1328. Published 2019 Nov 5. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.01328
- Bruni N, Della Pepa C, Oliaro-Bosso S, Pessione E, Gastaldi D, Dosio F. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478. Published 2018 Sep 27. doi:10.3390/molecules23102478
- American Heart Association. What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-are-the-symptoms-of-atrial-fibrillation–afib-or-af
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. How Cardiac Rehabilitation Can Help Heal Your Heart. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/cardiac-rehabilitation/index.html